GENEVA (Reuters) - France will hold an international conference in Paris on May 30 in a bid relaunch talks between Palestinians and Israelis by the end of the year, its foreign minister said in remarks published on Thursday.
With U.S. efforts to broker a two-state accord in tatters since April 2014 and Washington focused on a November presidential election, Paris has lobbied countries to commit to a conference before then that would set out a framework to get Israelis and Palestinians back into negotiations.
“There is no other solution to the conflict other than a two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem a shared capital,” Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a joint interview with daily newspapers Liberation, the Wall Street Journal, Al-Quds al-Arabi and Haaretz.
“The two sides are more divided than ever. I’m not naive, but am acting in good faith. There is no alternative. The other option is fatalism and I refuse it,” he said.
France’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Pierre Vimont, completed a report earlier this month after selling the initiative across the Arab world, Israel, the U.S. and Russia, among others.
The idea is to pave the way for face-to-face talks between the two sides after the summer with the meeting on May 30 beginning on the basis of a 2002 Arab peace plan that at the time was rejected by Israel.
The May conference will include the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations), the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council and about 20 countries.
“We welcome that and are looking forward to help,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters at the United Nations, in response to the French announcement.
While not rejecting the notion of a conference, Israel has been lukewarm to the idea, repeating its stance that it is prepared to enter direct negotiation without preconditions and without dictated terms.
Last year France failed to get the United States support for a U.N. Security Council resolution to set parameters for talks between the two sides and set a deadline for a deal.
Since then, the stance of former foreign minister Laurent Fabius to recognize a Palestinian state automatically if the new initiative fails has been toned down.
Reporting by John Irish in Geneva and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Dominic Evans